Melbourne’s city streets are in danger of disappearing under a pile of waste as rubbish collectors step up demands for a new pay deal.
Nearly 100 staff, covered by the Municipal and Utilities Workers Union (MUWU), kicked off work bans on Thursday by refusing to service four key city streets.
The action is in response to employer Citywide’s refusal to negotiate a new enterprise agreement, instead opting to rollover the existing one, according to the union.
“All their staff want is an opportunity to negotiate,” union president Jennifer Marriott said.
“Why wouldn’t you at least want to listen to your employees?”
Under the work bans, rubbish bins will go uncollected, curb collections will be halted, and asphalt pick-ups paused on Spring Street, Flinders Street, Victoria Street and Spencer Street.
Citywide has proposed the current enterprise agreement to be varied to give workers a 3% pay increase, and for it to be rolled over until June next year.
The employer is also pitching a one-off payment of $350, it said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Employees will soon have the opportunity to vote for or against that proposal,” Citywide said.
The Australian Services Union, in contrast with MUWU, supports Citywide’s proposal, the company said.
A 3% rise effectively to a pay cut for workers, MUWU’s Marriott said.
The union was looking at a standard increase of $50 a week and a weekly emergency allowance of an additional $20, but what workers settled on should be up to them, she said.
Union members plan to continue the action indefinitely if Citywide sticks with its rollover plans.
As of Wednesday, Citywide believed about 20 workers were industrial action, which it said would be unlawful and liable to be halted by a Fair Work Commission order.
“Citywide has a committed group of employees and remains confident that, should any unlawful industrial action take place, its services will not be impacted,” the company said.
Citywide would do all it could to ensure residents, business owners and visitors were not inconvenienced, it said.